Whip up this deliciously comforting, classic pasta dinner in just one pot with just four basic ingredients: pasta, Parmesan cheese, butter and black pepper.
plate of pasta

Cacio e Pepe is a classic Italian pasta dish that translates literally to "cheese and pepper".

And if you have both of those ingredients plus some pasta and butter, you've got the makings of this delicious, but deceptively simple, classic pasta dinner.

Don't let the lack of complicated ingredients fool you. The reserved pasta water creates the smoothest silkiest sauce for the pasta, and you won't even miss the olive oil, cream .... or anything really.... in this yummy, comforting plate of deliciousness.

plate of cacio e pepe

This Cacio e Pepe (or Pasta Carbonara) is my go-to when I need a quick dinner and haven't been grocery shopping in awhile.  We always have a few boxes of pasta in the pantry, I keep butter on hand and I have a pepper mill full of black peppercorns. I also also try to keep a block of hard Parmesan cheese in the fridge.

Although it might seem like a lot of pepper, don't skimp on it. It really adds to the flavor of this recipe. And grinding peppercorns instead of using pre-ground pepper will make a big difference in your dish.

Because there are so few ingredients, it's really important that each ingredient be good quality - and fresh. No cheating with that plastic shaker of Parmesan cheese, please! 

Grating a block of Parmesan cheese using a microplane will allow the finely grated cheese to melt evenly into the sauce.

fork full of cacio e pepe

This dish succeeds because of its simplicity and subtle flavor. And it comes together in no time, in just one pot (I like to use my oval Le Creuset Dutch oven for this recipe), making it a great weeknight dinner option.

But the real secret to a delicious Cacio e Pepe is to use enough pasta water to allow the grated cheese to melt into a smooth, silky sauce.

Scroll down for the printable recipe card.

pasta, cheese, pepper grinder, teaspoon

One-Pot Cacio e Pepe

Makes 2 servings.

Kosher salt
8 ounces of pasta, store bought or homemade (I like to use angel hair or spaghetti)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for serving
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more or serving

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook to al dente, then reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and keep warm in a colander with the pot cover on top.

In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the pepper and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until aromatic.

Add half of the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Using tongs, toss the pasta in the sauce until well coated. 

Reduce the heat to low. Add half of the cheese and toss until the cheese is melted and combined. Add the remaining cheese, continuing to toss, and more of the pasta water until the sauce is glossy and coats the pasta.

Divide the pasta between two plates, add a few turns of pepper on top and serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

cacio e pepe ingredients
colander of cooked pasta
tongs grabbing pasta
tongs grabbing pasta in pot
one-pot cacio e pepe
fork full of pasta

What I Use 

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